Opinion

Forget Argentina; it’s the EU that will cost us the Falklands

27th April 2016

An article published in yesterday’s Daily Telegraph alleges that if Britain were to leave the European Union, Britain’s perfectly legitimate territorial claim over the Falkland Islands would come into question. The grounds for this? Because an Argentine invasion of British land would be made more likely, apparently.

The EU believes that should we Brexit, Argentina will see this as a sign of weakness and invade British land. Their belief is predicated on the assumption that should we leave, the EU will not see the Falkland Islands as its territory any longer and therefore will aid Argentina in taking them from us. This is clearly untrue, since Britain would remain a close ally and neighbour of all of the 27 remaining EU member-states and because in a 2013 referendum 99.8% of voters supported remaining a British territory. On what grounds could the EU not support British sovereignty there?

But even if it were true, there are actually reasons that Argentina would be less likely to invade the British overseas territories if we leave the EU than if we remain:

Britain’s departure from the European Union will not weaken the British resolve or sovereignty. The EU played no role in the decision to go to war in the Falklands in 1982; there is no reason to think British departure would detract from our military resolve. Leaving the EU would in fact prove Britain’s willingness to exert its influence, to apply pressure and to exude its newly regained sovereignty. Upon leaving the EU, Britain will be renewed on the world stage in all terms – not least militarily – rather than weakened.

An Argentina which chooses to invade Britain’s South Atlantic territory on the basis that the UK is somehow weaker or less willing to act on June 24th than on June 23rd, would be sorely mistaken.

By contrast, a Britain which remains in the EU is more likely to be invaded by Argentina. There are several reasons for this; not least the perceived weakness of a Britain which cannot unshackle itself from the collapsing EU. Inside of the EU, British sovereignty is being eroded further and further with every passing directive, law and regulation. Inside of the EU, Britain finds itself unable to deliver on the simplest of manifesto pledges on welfare without the prime minister first dragging himself round Europe to beg for permission, let alone protect its Atlantic citizens.

Another reason is that the EU has supported the UN decision to redefine Argentina’s territorial waters so that they indeed now include the Falkland Islands. There are so few examples in the world where one country’s overseas territories fall into the territorial waters of another state. Interestingly though, one such example is British Gibraltar, unto which Spain continues to exert pressure without so much as the disinterested finger-wagging of the EU.

The same is happening to the Falkland Islands, where nearly 3000 British citizens live and are offered the franchise. The UN is exerting pressure on both Argentina and the UK to recognise the Falklands as an Argentinian land-right when the citizenry voted in 2013 to remain British.

Ben Riley-Smith’s article alleges that a stronger, more forceful Britain outside of the EU will be more susceptible to Argentine invasion than a Britain which chooses to remain a second rate member of the bureaucrats club; a bureaucrats club which has sold British interests down the river first in Gibraltar and now in the South Atlantic. The allegation he makes is frankly absurd.

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